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Stennis, Coast Guard collaborate to help shipmate

USS JOHN C. STENNIS, at sea – In the first 24 hours underway, USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) and the United States Coast Guard (USCG) Air Station Port Angeles combined efforts and showcased America’s dynamic ability to immediately respond as a joint force.

Stennis got underway from Bremerton May 1, en route to San Diego to begin conducting a series of exercises.

Only hours after shoving off, Naval Base Kitsap’s Executive Officer, Cmdr. Jim Travers received an urgent message for Stennis.

Immediately he called Stennis Executive Officer, Cmdr. David Burnham. A Stennis sailor had a family emergency ashore.

“Thanks to the immediate response and communication from Cmdr. Travers, we were able to alert the captain. He immediately assessed the ship’s position,” said Burnham. “He ordered a hard reversal of course and best speed toward Port Angeles.”

The ship’s crew sprung to action. Without delay a message was sent to the Port Angeles USCG asking for air support to take the sailor to his family in Tacoma.

In the brief moments it took to get the reply from the Coast Guard, Stennis’ deck department was pressing on with a back-up plan. They readied a ridged-hull inflatable boat (RHIB) to take the sailor ashore.

Then the word came in. The Coast Guard was sending a helicopter to land on Stennis.

“The captain canceled the boat and had air department make a ready deck,” explained Burnham.

While the air department was preparing to receive the USCG helicopter, the navigation department was adjusting course.

“We had navigation department provide the needed winds across the bow in order to effectively recover the in-bound helo,” said Stennis Command Master Chief (AW/SW) Joseph Powers. “By the way, [the pilot] had never conducted a landing on an aircraft carrier before.”

“It didn’t slow him down for a nanosecond,” added Burnham. “Airboss’ team coached him in for a perfect landing!”

With the help from all the departments aboard Stennis, Powers explained, within 30 minutes of receiving notification, the sailor was airlifted off the Stennis and was taken to awaiting ground transportation provided by Naval Base Kitsap’s executive officer.

“A true team effort, and a real-life example of how the Stennis team rallies around our sailors in the most difficult hour,” said Powers.

Stennis Commanding Officer, Capt. Brad Johanson, expressed his thanks in a message to USCG Air Station, Port Angeles for the expeditious helicopter transport for his sailor.

“Your quick action and proactive inter-service support is one of the finest examples of teamwork I have ever seen,” said Johanson.

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